Hundreds gather for annual homeless festival in Finsbury Park
Second successful year for the homeless festival in the park
16 September, 2019 — By Emily Finch
Dan Atkins and Jason Armstrong, of Buses 4 Homeless showcased their mobile homeless shelters
HUNDREDS of rough sleepers and those living on the breadline streamed into Finsbury Park to be offered a safe space to enjoy music, have their nails done and to rest on Tuesday.
Streets Fest, an annual festival for homeless people now in its second year, was created by campaigners from Streets Kitchen, which offers home-cooked meals to thousands of rough sleepers throughout London each week. The festival in the park was supported by Islington and Haringey councils.
Streets Kitchen volunteers give the festival a thumbs up
Pete Biggs, a former Islington resident evicted from his council-owned home of 20 years in 2015 due to rent arrears, praised the “cosmic” festival.
“The food was so good and I got to meet real people who run the services and give my input,” he said. “It felt like they really listened to me. I hung around for a while and had a dance then took part in a sound healing session with half a dozen others listening to the sounds of a didgeridoo – it was cosmic.”
Mr Biggs is making a documentary film about Islington’s Partners for Improvement, the PFI firm which managed his eviction. It is in charge of the council’s street properties.
Jon Glackin, founder of Streets Kitchen, said: “The highlight for me is to see the happiness of homeless people who are just treated as equals. They can access simple things and have some fun.
“Joy has become a commodity which you have to pay for but here it’s free. We have a lot of services here that homeless people cannot usually access.”
Dozens of volunteers from Streets Kitchen and the Town Hall dished up food for anyone who wanted a home-cooked meal.
Laura Ferguson, from Tufnell Park, who was busy serving up pasta and vegetarian spring rolls, said: “I’ve been volunteering with Streets Kitchen for just over a year now. I was made redundant and I wanted to give something back to the community. It’s a humbling experience.”
Lina Trivedi from Islington Council giving manicures
Lina Trivedi, who swapped her desk job at the Town Hall for the day to offer manicures to rough sleepers, said: “It’s been very busy, but I felt it was important for me to help out here today.”
A mobile lending library organised by Quaker Homeless Action handed out books.
Head librarian Katie Calvert said they were in “desperate” need of volunteers to drive the van so books could be offered to more rough sleepers in Islington and other areas.
“I absolutely love what I do,” she said. “Doing this job has opened my eyes a lot more to what’s going on in the world. I love having ridiculous conversations with people, which is really fun,” she said.
Buses 4 Homeless director Dan Atkins showcased his double- decker buses, which he has converted into shelters for rough sleepers.
Katie Calvert hands out books from the Quaker Homeless Action
“I run a party and event bus service,” he said. “One day I walked into my yard and found a 70-year-old close friend sleeping rough and that broke my heart. Him and I went out that day, bought him a bus and he lived there with his three dogs for two years.
“Combined with that experience and my life experiences I set up Buses 4 Homeless.”